FEATURE Umeå University Library is bedecked with rainbow-hued Pride flags and garlands. It is Umepride in town, and as in previous years LGBTQI literature has pride of place in all three libraries during this period, as part of the university’s efforts to promote equal opportunities.
At the University Library, the Medical Library and UB Arts Campus, the bright rainbow is clearly displayed in various forms, as are the books highlighted under the LGBTQI theme.
“There are lots of positive comments when we hang the flags and garlands, which feels great,” says Hanna Olsson, a librarian at the University Library. The flags have a strong symbolic value and send a positive signal that everyone is welcome and entitled to feel seen and included. “The library should feel like a safe space,” says Hanna, who is one of the representatives in the library’s Equal Opportunities group.
The library should feel like a safe space
She explains that the goal of the work of the Equal Opportunities group, of which LGBTQI issues is one aspect, is that equal opportunities should naturally permeate the organisation — that this should not be treated as a special issue, but rather something that is included in all work, such as reception, purchasing and selection of literature and other media. When other thematic exhibitions are mounted throughout the year, the equal opportunities perspective is still taken into account.
Many of the staff are involved in the annual Pride exhibition. Amanda Lindgren and Charlotta Turborn, who work at UB Arts Campus, have used various methods to search for LGBTQI literature, in order to find publications relevant to the subjects studied on campus: architecture, art and design. The result is a display of non-fiction books, children’s books in Swedish and English, comics and photo books, and after just a few days, many of their finds have been borrowed.
“I have the feeling that more LGBTQI literature is being published in these subject areas now,” says Charlotta Turborn, who appreciates that there is so much knowledge and commitment among her colleagues.
“It’s important that we do this every year, and I’m glad we get the opportunity to do it at all three libraries,” says Amanda Lindgren.
At the Medical Library, this year’s Pride display consists of a mix of LGBTQI books touching on various medical, social and psychological aspects, as well as fiction.
“Our visitors appreciate the display, and it has an important symbolic value,” points out Karina Sjögren, Director of the Medical Library.
Library Director Mikael Sjögren thinks that the Pride flag is a symbol of love and the equal value of all people, of which libraries are primary representatives, and that the LGBTQI exhibitions in connection with Umepride are an obvious part of the work to promote equal opportunities:
“For me, it’s about doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. I should be able to be myself and be treated with respect when I do so.”
Because the library is a library of legal deposits and receives all material printed in Sweden, including translated fiction, it also houses a large amount of literature in the LGBTQI area.
I should be able to be myself and be treated with respect when I do so
“We don’t have a rainbow shelf because there’s such a large amount of literature and it would be difficult to find a place for it all and display such a collection,” explains Hanna Olsson. “But we have a treasure in our stacks!”
Nowadays, LGBTQI-related fiction is rarely assigned search keywords specific to that subject, so it is difficult to search for it. She advises searching other collection pages for titles of books and then using the library’s search service. (See the link tips at the end of the article). Non-fiction is often searchable based on subject keywords.
To broaden its collection, the library is endeavouring to make purchases of LGBTQI literature in other languages. For example, it has purchased books in Finnish and Sami. Library visitors who notice that certain literature is lacking in the subject area are welcome to send purchase suggestions to the library.